Discrimination is serious and can be extremely costly
If you have received a complaint about discrimination from a staff member, or if you are defending a formal claim of discrimination, it is vitally important that you treat the matter extremely seriously, and seek urgent expert legal advice.
Call our team at Emplowise immediately on 1800 00 WISE (1800 00 9473).
Successful claims for discrimination can cost your business hundreds of thousands of dollars if not managed properly.
You are responsible for the conduct of your staff
It is important to understand that as an employer, you are responsible for the conduct of your staff, and will be held vicariously liable for any unlawful discrimination they engage in – which means it will be your business, and not the employee, who will be ordered to pay any penalties or compensation to any potential victim/s.
What is discrimination?
Discrimination happens when someone with a particular attribute is treated less favourably, or unfairly, than someone who does not have that same attribute.
As an employer, it is unlawful for you to treat a staff member, a contractor, or someone doing work experience, unfairly, or to take adverse action against them, because of a protected attribute.
For example, you cannot demote a worker because she becomes pregnant, and you cannot sack someone because they have reached a certain age, and you think that they are too old.
It is also unlawful for any of your employees to discriminate against another worker on the basis of a protected attribute.
What are protected attributes?
Depending on which state your business is located in, an attribute can include a person’s:
- social origin
- sexual orientation
- gender identity
- parental status
- relationship status
- family or carer’s responsibilities
- physical or mental impairment (disability)
- political opinion
- trade union activity
How complaints are managed
Complaints of discrimination are initially handled by different agencies, depending on the state you live in.
In Queensland, it is the Human Rights Commission.
In New South Wales, it is the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales.
In Victoria, it is the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.
If you are defending a complaint of discrimination, you may need to attend a compulsory conciliation session in one of these agencies where you will be encouraged to try and resolve the matter.
This might involve you offering a payment of compensation, or writing an apology, or making a commitment to prevent the unlawful behaviour from happening in the future.
Our specialist industrial relations advocates at Employwise have extensive experience negotiating on behalf of our clients in these conciliation sessions, and can advocate on your behalf and advise you of your best options moving forward.
If the matter is not resolved during this initial conciliation process, it may be escalated to either the Industrial Relations Commission, or the Civil and Administrative Tribunal in your particular state.
How to protect your business
As an employer, you have a responsibility to take all reasonable steps to prevent discrimination from happening in your workplace.
The first step to protect your business from a claim is to ensure that you have clear and robust policies in place, and that all of your employees are familiar with those policies.
Secondly, you should establish a formal grievance process to deal with any complaints should they arise.
You should also organise regular professional workplace training for all staff that deals with discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and victimisation.
Our specialist team at Employwise can help you develop and implement effective policies, and grievance processes to handle complaints.
We also offer professional workplace training in discrimination, sexual harassment, bullying and victimisation.
If you are defending a claim of discrimination, we can help.
Please call our specialist team at Employwise today on
1800 00 WISE (1800 00 9473)
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